Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month

What is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness month?

In 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives declared May as Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness month. This is largely in part due to the National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder’s efforts to educate others about the disorder and its impact; these efforts seek to empower those diagnosed while reducing stigma that surrounds the disorder. 

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder characterized by “a long-standing pattern of instability in mood, interpersonal relationships, and self-image that is severe enough to cause extreme distress or interfere with social and occupational functioning” (APA, 2021). To meet diagnostic criteria, an individual must meet five of the following categories: frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment, a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation, identity disturbance (markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self), impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating), affective instability due to marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days), recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior, chronic feelings of emptiness, inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights), and transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms (APA, 2013).

Around 1.4% of the adult U.S. population experiences BPD and nearly 75% those are women (NAMI, 2017). Causes of the disorder are thought to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and emotional regulation factors (NAMI, 2017).

How to help.

Seeking the help of a mental health professional is highly recommended, especially those who are familiar with and utilize dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). DBT is a form of therapy developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan in the 1970s that caters to BPD and was informed by her own personal experience with mental illness. DBT is a structured therapy that usually includes weekly individual sessions and weekly skills training sessions. Skills training involves four domains: mindfulness (being aware of one’s emotions), distress tolerance (tolerating and accepting difficult situations or emotions), emotion regulation (using various therapeutic techniques to modify thoughts and emotions) and interpersonal effectiveness. The techniques used in DBT emphasize the dialectic, or acceptance of seemingly contradictory perspectives between validation and change. DBT has been shown to improve social and global functioning as well as quality of life (Biskin & Paris, 2012). Seeking treatment can help individuals better navigate and cope with symptoms in a way that betters their life in several domains. 



American Psychological Association. (2021). APA Dictionary of Psychology. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 18, 2021, from 

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Publisher. Text citation: (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).

Biskin, R. S., & Paris, J. (2012). Evaluating treatments of borderline personality disorder. Clinical Practice, 9(4), 425-437. Text citation: (American Psychiatric Association, 201

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2017). Borderline personality disorder. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Retrieved December 18, 2021, from